(Note to the reader: We are about to embark on a short treatise that attempts to explain this phenomenon. We will try hard not to make it dry, because we do not want to be John Andariese to your Marv Albert. Aficionados of Knick telecasts know that Andariese occasionally goes off on a tangent, which Marv cuts off by saying, "That's fascinating, John, but we are very busy right now.")
There are many reasons for the rise of the sons, No. 1 being—wink, wink, nudge, nudge—nepotism. In many cases, fathers did open doors for their kids. But as Skip Caray notes, "Nepotism gets you only so far in this business." Indeed, the quality of the second generation is almost as impressive as the quantity. The kids learned well, and we can only thank our lucky stars that Ron Luciano didn't have a son.
Says NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, "I live in St. Louis, so I listen to Jack Buck and Joe Buck all the time. I don't hear a father and son broadcasting a Cardinal game, I hear a great veteran announcer and one of the best young play-by-play men in the business."
Nepotism cuts both ways. If you were the program director of a station, or the head of broadcasting for a club, wouldn't you want the son of Skip Caray, not so much for his name value as for the bloodline? Wouldn't you want the son of a man who once asked the San Diego Chicken, "Why did you cross the road?"
Which brings us to reason No. 2: genetics. According to Dr. Diane Paul-Brown, a prominent speech pathologist, a person's voice is determined by such hereditary factors as body type, the size of the voice box and the shape of the pharynx. Still, DNA is no guarantee that you'll have your parent's voice. Todd Kalas has his father's deep timbre, but Skip Caray sounds more like Jack Buck than Harry Caray, and Sean McDonough is a dead ringer for Bob Costas.
So while nature has something to do with the baby boom, nurture, or second nature, is an even stronger reason (No. 3). These kids grew up listening to their fathers on the radio or on TV. For someone like Joe Buck or Todd Kalas or Thorn Brennaman, dad's bedtime story was a bang-bang play at the plate in the fourth.
Harry Caray, in point of fact, used to interrupt his Cardinal broadcast every night at 8:30 to say, "Good night, Skip." This became something of an embarrassment to Skip when he took up football at Webster Groves High School outside of St. Louis. "Just before the snap," recalls Skip, "the big guy across the line from me would always snarl, 'Good night, Skip.' "
Skip's former partner, Ernie Johnson Sr., used to send messages to his kids, too. Says Ernie Jr., "I remember one time my dad was in Montreal doing a Braves game, and he said, 'I would like to pass this French saying along to my son Ernie: Mean de Ion. That means, Cut the grass.' "
For these offspring, the so-called big time is no big deal. As Thorn Brennaman says, "Because you grow up with your father in the business, it doesn't seem like a big deal to get behind the mike. I mean, the guy may be watched by millions, but he's also the guy who walks around the house in his underwear."
Sigmund Freud, whose daughter, Anna, followed him into his business, could also do analysis on this prodigious crop. Reason No. 4: Catching pops. The sons are pursuing their fathers' careers to pursue their often absent fathers, many of whom are divorced. "It's an occupational hazard," says Harry Kalas, who is separated from his wife.